DIY Haptic-Enabled VR Gun Hits All The Targets

This VR Haptic Gun by [Robert Enriquez] is the result of hacking together different off-the-shelf products and tying it all together with an ESP32 development board. The result? A gun frame that integrates a VR controller (meaning it can be tracked and used in VR) and provides mild force feedback thanks to a motor that moves with each shot.

But that’s not all! Using the WiFi capabilities of the ESP32 board, the gun also responds to signals sent by a piece of software intended to drive commercial haptics hardware. That software hooks into the VR game and sends signals over the network telling the gun what’s happening, and [Robert]’s firmware acts on those signals. In short, every time [Robert] fires the gun in VR, the one in his hand recoils in synchronization with the game events. The effect is mild, but when it comes to tactile feedback, a little can go a long way.

The fact that this kind of experimentation is easily and affordably within the reach of hobbyists is wonderful, and VR certainly has plenty of room for amateurs to break new ground, as we’ve seen with projects like low-cost haptic VR gloves.

[Robert] walks through every phase of his gun’s design, explaining how he made various square pegs fit into round holes, and provides links to parts and resources in the project’s GitHub repository. There’s a video tour embedded below the page break, but if you want to jump straight to a demonstration in Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx, here’s a link to test firing at 10:19 in.

There are a number of improvements waiting to be done, but [Robert] definitely understands the value of getting something working, even if it’s a bit rough. After all, nothing fills out a to-do list or surfaces hidden problems like a prototype. Watch everything in detail in the video tour, embedded below.

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Svelte VR Headsets Coming?

According to Standford and NVidia researchers, VR adoption is slowed by the bulky headsets required. They want to offer a slim solution. A SIGGRAPH paper earlier this year lays out their plan or you can watch the video below. There’s also a second video, also below, covers some technical questions and answers.

The traditional headset has a display right in front of your eyes. Special lenses can make them skinnier, but this new method provides displays that can be a few millimeters thick. The technology seems pretty intense and appears to create a hologram at different apparent places using a laser, a geometric phase lens, and a pupil-replicating waveguide.

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VR Prototypes Reveal Facebook’s Surprisingly Critical Research Directions

A short while ago, Tested posted a video all about hands-on time with virtual reality (VR) headset prototypes from Meta (which is to say, Facebook) and there are some genuinely interesting bits in there. The video itself is over an hour long, but if you’re primarily interested in the technical angles and why they matter for VR, read on because we’ll highlight each of the main points of research.

As absurd as it may seem to many of us to have a social network spearheading meaningful VR development, one can’t say they aren’t taking it seriously. It’s also refreshing to see each of the prototypes get showcased by a researcher who is clearly thrilled to talk about their work. The big dream is to figure out what it takes to pass the “visual Turing test”, which means delivering visuals that are on par with that of a physical reality. Some of these critical elements may come as a bit of a surprise, because they go in directions beyond resolution and field-of-view.

Solid-state varifocal lens demo, capable of 32 discrete focal steps.

At 9:35 in on the video, [Douglas Lanman] shows [Norman Chan] how important variable focus is to delivering a good visual experience, followed by a walk-through of all the different prototypes they have used to get that done. Currently, VR headsets display visuals at only one focal plane, but that means that — among other things — bringing a virtual object close to one’s eyes gets blurry. (Incidentally, older people don’t find that part very strange because it is a common side effect of aging.)

The solution is to change focus based on where the user is looking, and [Douglas] shows off all the different ways this has been explored: from motors and actuators that mechanically change the focal length of the display, to a solid-state solution composed of stacked elements that can selectively converge or diverge light based on its polarization. [Doug]’s pride and excitement is palpable, and he really goes into detail on everything.

At the 30:21 mark, [Yang Zhao] explains the importance of higher resolution displays, and talks about lenses and optics as well. Interestingly, the ultra-clear text rendering made possible by a high-resolution display isn’t what ended up capturing [Norman]’s attention the most. When high resolution was combined with variable focus, it was the textures on cushions, the vividness of wall art, and the patterns on walls that [Norman] found he just couldn’t stop exploring.

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It’s Easy To Mod Your Oculus VR Headset With Prescription Lenses

The Oculus brand VR headset and other similar devices allow you to view 3D worlds, but they can be blurry and unsatisfying if you’re a glasses wearer. Alternatively, you might be able to see fine, but find your glasses get in the way of a comfortable experience. Either way, you might want to integrate prescription lenses into your headset, and thankfully, there’s a straightforward way to do so thanks to [tanvach].

The way to do so is by using these 3D-printed lens adaptors. They take standard single vision lenses as designed for the Zenni #550021 round glasses frames, and let them fit nicely inside a Oculus Quest, Quest 2, or Rift S headset. [tanvach] supplies instructions on how to order the lenses for your own prescription, and notes that the key is to get the antireflective coating to reduce glare. And, if you don’t want to print your own adapters, you can source some pre-printed instead!

The adapters are a great way to improve your VR experience if you’re someone that typically relies on corrective lenses. Of course, it’s getting more popular to simply DIY your own headset these days, too. If you’ve got your own neat VR project in the works, don’t hesitate to let us know!

Thanks to [Keith Olson] for the tip!

VR Spectrum Analyzer

At one point or another, we’ve probably all wished we had a VR headset that would allow us to fly around our designs. While not quite the same, thing, [manahiyo831] has something that might even be better: a VR spectrum analyzer. You can get an idea of what it looks like in the video below, although that is actually from an earlier version.

The video shows a remote PC using an RTL dongle to pick up signals. The newer version runs on the Quest 2 headset, so you can simply attach the dongle to the headset. Sure, you’d look like a space cadet with this on, but — honestly — if you are willing to be seen in the headset, it isn’t that much more hardware.

What we’d really like to see, though, is a directional antenna so you could see the signals in the direction you were looking. Now that would be something. As it is, this is undeniably cool, but we aren’t sure what its real utility is.

What other VR test gear would you like to see? A Tron-like logic analyzer? A function generator that lets you draw waveforms in the air? A headset oscilloscope? Or maybe just a giant workbench in VR?

A spectrum analyzer is a natural project for an SDR. Or things that have SDRs in them.

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Hackaday Links: May 15, 2022

It may be blurry and blotchy, but it’s ours. The first images of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy were revealed this week, and they caused quite a stir. You may recall the first images of the supermassive black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy from a couple of years ago: spectacular images that captured exactly what all the theories said a black hole should look like, or more precisely, what the accretion disk and event horizon should look like, since black holes themselves aren’t much to look at. That black hole, dubbed M87*, is over 55 million light-years away, but is so huge and so active that it was relatively easy to image. The black hole at the center of our own galaxy, Sagittarius A*, is comparatively tiny — its event horizon would fit inside the orbit of Mercury — a much closer at only 26,000 light-years or so. But, our black hole is much less active and obscured by dust, so imaging it was far more difficult. It’s a stunning technical achievement, and the images are certainly worth checking out.

Another one from the “Why didn’t I think of that?” files — contactless haptic feedback using the mouth is now a thing. This comes from the Future Interfaces Group at Carnegie-Mellon and is intended to provide an alternative to what ends up being about the only practical haptic device for VR and AR applications — vibrations from off-balance motors. Instead, this uses an array of ultrasonic transducers positioned on a VR visor and directed at the user’s mouth. By properly driving the array, pressure waves can be directed at the lips, teeth, and tongue of the wearer, providing feedback for in-world events. The mock game demonstrated in the video below is a little creepy — not sure how many people enjoyed the feeling of cobwebs brushing against the face or the splatter of spider guts in the mouth. Still, it’s a pretty cool idea, and we’d like to see how far it can go.

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Can You Help NASA Build A Mars Sim In VR?

No matter your project or field of endeavor, simulation is a useful tool for finding out what you don’t know. In many cases, problems or issues aren’t obvious until you try and do something. Where doing that thing is expensive or difficult, a simulation can be a low-stakes way to find out some problems without huge costs or undue risks.

Going to Mars is about as difficult and expensive as it gets. Thus, it’s unsurprising that NASA relies on simulations in planning its missions to the Red Planet. Now, the space agency is working to create a Mars sim in VR for training and assessment purposes. The best part is that you can help!

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